Webster to introduce robotics next year

Mark Schierbecker
Staff Writer

Adding to a growing list of industrial technology classes, a new robotics course will be offered starting August of next school year.

With the increasing automation of the work force in all sectors, robotics is a growing field with courses being developed for many modern high schools.

“You see a lot of industries adopting automation,” said industrial tech chair Frank Mandernach.

“Potato chip factories even have sorters that pick out burnt chips. When an optical sensor spots a burnt chip, it blows it into refuse bin with a jet of air as the chips leap from conveyor to conveyor,” Mandernach said.

Robotics is a year-long Practical Arts or Elective credit course open to all students with or without an industrial background. Students can expect to spend upwards of 50 hours outside of class designing and building robots.

5350 Robotics will be instructed by industrial tech teachers Glenn Dutch, Mandernach and Tom O’Toole, science teachers David Schuster and Jeanette Hencken, and social studies teacher Nicholas Kirschman.

“Of all the people helping with this robotics program, I find myself to be the least talented engineer,” said robotics course coordinator Glenn Dutch.

“I’m at the low end of the talent pool. I know the teachers who have engineering minds that can best help these kids,” said Dutch.

The course is also accepting help from technical experts from the community.

“Its kind of a big deal,” said Mandernach.

“Until now, Webster has never had a robotics class. Now you have six teachers excited about robotics,” said Mandernach

Twice a year, students will have six weeks to develop robots to compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition, an elimination-style arena tournament billed as the “Superbowl of Smarts.” The competitions will be centered around achieving specific tasks and scored on task execution and time.

“We’ve allowed other schools to find troublesome issues – now we have a better idea of activities and curriculum that work well for students,” said Mandernach.

The course will finance itself primarily from monetary donations from businesses. Although the school has many of the tools it needs for the project, consumable materials such as sheet metal will be in constant need of replenishing, and these will also be furnished by corporate donors.

The course is not in the 2012-13 course selection guide, but students can enroll in advance through their counselor now.

“We are still waiting for the board to approve this course, but we are confident we have support from them,” said Mandernach.

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